Susan Crawford of Susan Crawford Vintage joins me this week and we take a journey through the past three years since Ep55. In that episode, Susan talked about the Pubslush (crowdfunded publishing) campaign she was undertaking to print pre-orders of the book. She also described at length, the painstaking process she had been through the research and create the Vintage Shetland Project.
This involved researching at length pieces in the Shetland Museum archives, along with the stories of the people behind the pieces. It is a social and historical exploration of the Shetland Islands and beyond, as the stories stretch far away from those shores. A computer program was written to record each stitch of each project meticulously, and these details were used to create patterns to recreate these pieces in the modern day, in a range of sizes, for men and women. You can hear the full story of this here, along with more about Susan and her journey to becoming a knitting historian, writer and knitwear designer.
The Vintage Shetland Project
The Vintage Shetland Project was officially published in February 2018. The culmination of 8 years of painstaking work, the book is an absolute triumph, both as an academic work, but also as Susan was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer just prior to the original planned publication date.
To quote from the blurb on the Vintage Shetland Project book:
Fashion & social history intertwine in the Vintage Shetland Project as Susan Crawford recreates & explores cherished pieces from Shetland’s rich knitting heritage.The Vintage Shetland Project, is the culmination of eight years of hard work and personal determination. Inspired by the patterns and colours of Shetland knitting, the fashion historian, author, designer and publisher Susan Crawford began a journey into the rich heritage of Shetland knitwear, and in particular the pieces held in the Shetland Museum archive. With the help of Dr Carol Christiansen, the museum’s curator, Susan undertook the task of carefully selecting the most stunning and original designs from the 1920s to the 1950s, transcribed them stitch by stitch, and has here recreated them for the modern knitter, in stunning detail and a range of sizes for women and men. In combination with the collection of 27 comprehensive patterns for garments and accessories are carefully researched essays exploring the stories behind each piece and honouring their creators – some famous, some forgotten. Photographed by Susan on the island of Vaila, situated off the west coast of Shetland, this book also celebrates the untameable beauty of Shetland itself. Compiled with Susan’s trademark attention to detail, this book is a fabulous treasury of Shetland knitting design and a valuable insight into its textile traditions. It offers you the chance to delve into a fascinating era for knitwear design and to bring it to life in stitch-perfect vintage style.
The meticulously written patterns showcase Susan’s new yarn range, Fenella, created specifically to enable you, the knitter, to perfectly recreate these unique museum pieces. Made using 100% British wool, grown, spun and dyed in Britain, in a range of 26 colours carefully chosen to emulate the shades found in the original vintage pieces.
The Vintage Shetland Project is a celebration of stunning design, beautiful knitting and the people of Shetland themselves, during a time of local change, international conflict and revolution in the knitting industry.
In this episode we talk about the realisation of the Vintage Shetland Project into its paper form, and discuss a few of the amazing stories that have come out as a result of this research. This includes a hitherto forgotten knitting historian from 1930, whose work was destined to be lost forever until this project and a daring WW2 pilot, who believed the Fair Isle sweaters knitted by his doting Aunt kept him safe from the Luftwaffe.
The Knocker Jotter
Next, Susan talked about another project, connected to her diagnosis: The Knocker Jotter. Susan was very open about the details of her journey through cancer. The Knocker Jotter was a creative project, that came about with members of her cancer support group, and was very empowering for the women involved. It involved a photoshoot of all the women, as they are following cancer; all the way from undergoing chemotherapy to a full, double mastectomy without reconstruction. These images were combined in The Knocker Jotter.
Susan also created the FUBC kit, which is a shawl kit that was launched to celebrate the end of Susan’s breast cancer treatment. This included two skeins of Ghyll yarn, one of which was a limited edition colour by one of four of her favourite hand dyers, the other undyed, and two different shawl patterns which combined the two colour ways. £15 from the sale of each kit is donated to Cancer Care, which was the charity which helped Susan during her illness.
Future Plans for Monkey Ghyll Farm and Susan Crawford Vintage
Finally we return to the present, with exciting plans for Monkley Ghyll Farm. There are naughty Shetland sheep, retreats, workshops and jam and gin on the horizon. Susan has a vision for turning the farm into a creative sanctuary, and sharing this special location with others.
You can find Susan at http://www.susancrawfordvintage.com
Music for this episode is ‘I Need a Drink’ by Adam and the Walter Boys and is available on iTunes.